Egyptian startup, Halan, is not just another ride-hailing, ride-sharing company. The startup is doing things differently by providing services to a population that is rarely catered to by the likes of Uber and Careem; people who live in slums and in the outskirts of the city. It is also Egypt and Sudan’s first motorcycle and tricycle ride-hailing service. Mounir Nakhla, CEO and Ahmed Mohsen, CTO conceived the idea for Halan once they identified a significant gap in the ride-hailing industry in Egypt.
“I launched Halan to solve a real problem, to serve a real need in the market. While other people were looking at informal and rural communities as spaces full of challenges and poverty, my experience with micro-finance in underserved markets showed me how much wealth and opportunity there is,” Nakhla said in an interview. He was formerly co-founder of Mashroey, Egypt’s largest light-transport financing business, as well as Tasaheel, Egypt’s fastest growing micro-financing business.
The executive team also includes Mohamed Aboulnaga, former regional director of Careem, who is the Chief Commercial Officer, and Dina Ghabbour, Chief Marketing Officer. Both of whom joined Halan months after its launch.
Halan, which means Instantly in local Egyptian parlance, launched in the last quarter of 2017, but in its first year, the startup recorded immense growth including investments and funding. By March 2018, Halan had raised 75 percent of its $2 million goal in a pre-Series A fundraising round. That same month, it expanded across Egypt to the Nile Delta, Giza, Minya, Luxor, Alexandria, and Qalyubia.
In December, the startup announced that it had raised a multi-million Series A round from international investor – Battery Road Digital Holdings, Egypt’s largest VC – Algebra Ventures, and some other strategic investors it did not mention. According to Nakhla, that round of funding will be used to expand Halan to more countries, build better technology, and offer more services. The startup also recorded over three million rides in one year, and its app has been leading the ‘Travel and Local’ category on Google Play Store for the last few months with over 500,000 downloads.
“Halan is a technology solution that is built to put people first and improve their livelihoods. All over the country, it moves people and goods safely, efficiently, and economically and generates thousands of jobs.” – Mounir Nakhla
But Halan’s journey to where it is today wasn’t all smooth sailing. In an interview with Wamda, Nakhla said the company faced a series of challenges.”The app was not functioning well in the beginning, we had a lot of people requesting rides but we didn’t have an adequate supply in place. We lost a lot of customers that way, but you learn from your mistakes. We would call them up and send them promo codes. We paid a lot of attention to them,” he said.
As it is with other ride-hailing services and applications, Halan app lets users know the identity of their driver and the cost of a trip before it begins. It also gives them ride options including a pedicab(tuk-tuk), motorcycle, and tricycle. The drivers, or captains, as they are referred to, are thoroughly selected and undergo an effective training program to ensure that customers enjoy safe and convenient trips.
The prominence of motorcycle taxis and pedicabs across Africa is prompting ride-hailing companies to launch motorcycle and pedicab services to meet local needs, and in the case of Halan, cater to underserved populations. Late last year, Uber launched their motorcycle taxi service UberBoda in Nairobi, Kenya, six months after launching the service in Kampala, Uganda.